Erivalda Santana Gabriel, 53 years old, studied only until the second year of primary school, but she does not need to know detailed reports, percentage charts and colorful graphs, to know how much better education was in Sobral, not Ceará. The public school where her son studies Adleyn, 13, keeps little semelhança as she herself frequents, or just as her oldest son, Alana María, 31, has known for two decades. “Ah, much better, a snack is boa, as coordinators [pedagógicas] são boa people, eo director…. It’s wonderful!” exclaims Santana, shortly before beginning her file as a faxineira in a hotel.
Her enthusiasm as director is due to a simple gesture, but more powerful: “When a student is absent, he sends him a WhatsApp asking why he didn’t go to the classroom and to say that, if he is a teacher, he needs to be in attendance”. After three days of absence, a social worker is at home. O absenteeism is one of two many evils that afflict public schools in Brazil.
It is interesting in this industrial city of 200,000 inhabitants, where there is plenty of sun and for decades there have been few opportunities, and that students, teachers, politicians and families will lead an educational revolution that other municipalities analyze with admiration. They will bury the idea that there are children incapable of learning. Sobral has also been a place in history since 1919, when a British scientific expedition arrived here to witness an eclipse that confirmed Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.
The first great feito de Sobral was that, year over or first, with six or seven years, all boys and girls know how to read and write, regardless of gender, race and social origin. If in 2001 the illiterate students were the goal of the total, in a few years this rate fell, and now it was zero. And this, in Brazil, is unequal, it is a maiúsculo triumph. Within a few years, this municipality, which has two of the worst results in the Index of Development of Basic Education (IDEB), was placed in the leadership of the national reference ranking.
Something so basic represents a victory because elementary education currently, de facto, goes to the most remote grotões of the country, including indigenous villages in the Amazon, but its quality is very much to be desired. The pandemic aggravated evils that were endemic. Three out of every four students in the age of being literate did not manage to read nine words in a minute, according to a recent research by Fundação Lemann. Nine words in a minute, this is the caliber of the challenge before beginning to address the serious consequences of the inequality that has plagued or advanced two black individuals since they stepped out of school.
A pandemic kept the students of Sobral for a long year in the classrooms. Initially, we received material from WhatsApp, or printed in case two did not have a cell phone or Internet. Depois, the professors disembarked on YouTube, but they were also looking for students who did not return to the classrooms.
Marta Cristina Pereira traveled this week 700 kilometers from Pernambuco to Sobral in search of inspiration and hope. Secretary of Education of Serra Talhada (87,000 inhabitants), in the fifth-feira past, shared their concerns with several colleagues in one of the sessions for the inauguration of the Lemann Center for Leadership for Equity in Education created by the homonymous foundation, to which this journal was invited . “We still haven’t been able to break the political barriers. My feeling is that we swim, swim and die in the beach. I come with the hope that minha prefers to be touched, because, if we don’t react, we can go back or a little forward, ”she affirmed.
The objective is to attract and train teachers and educational managers so that they can throw out licenses from the Sobral experience and adapt them to their needs. One of the two things that prevents or advances is the tradition that school directors are appointed by vereadores based on political interests. A rooted exchange of favors. A measure that in this case is legal and opens the doors to leave something as decisive as the future of students in the hands of illiterate people. For this reason, the Sobral revolution came with unpopular measures: dismissal of two officials who did not pass the technical tests, centralization of the schools and the end of the nomination of directors and pedagogical coordinators.
The formula combines political will, perseverance, fair spending, teacher incentives, assessment of two results and, in function of them, adaptations to changing circumstances, explains Veveu Arruda, a professor who promoted the revolution when he was preferred, in the past decade. Or road is long, but you can start with something simple, outgoing, like giving classes 200 days and 800 hours a year that the calendar stipulates. “We are the country with the fewest teaching hours in the world, and we are not short, we are only counted,” he queixed. But this monumental collective failure has more ingredients: “All the reason for not having a classroom: it’s cool, it’s not cool, it’s the anniversary of the director, someone died….”, he enumerates, desperate.
In Brazil, the public school has the highest quality and the best reputation. So much so that, when a family prospers a little, the first thing that it is customary to do is to enroll the children in a private school. And, a reflection of the brutal inequality that ran in the richest country in Latin America, as long as it was publicly compulsory (two 4-year-olds or 17-year-olds) is regrettable, the federal universities are so many that the competition to enter is fierce. It is the public service that the privileged most appreciate.
As little was known, the classroom widens the enormous fissures that esquartejam the Brazilian society: “A school, which should reduce the differences, actually enhances them”, explains Anna Penido, director of the recently inaugurated institution, which included a branch of research and evaluation. Studies show that black and poor students still learn less than their colleagues, because they study more, and the schools where most of them have teachers with the best training. A vicious circle. Or Penido’s mantra is that nenhuma criança stays behind.
The strategy of the manager or director —or, if possible, to his own teacher or teacher— by calling the absent student’s house conveys to his family, in few words, the notion that education is something very important. Many of them were reluctant to be able to finish school and dream of being a university.
Also a prefecture such as Mata de São João, a 47,000-inhabitant municipality in Bahia that has just implemented an ambitious facial recognition system to control students, sent representatives to Sobral after days to deepen the move. “Our biggest problem is the lack of leaders”, says the Secretary of Education, Alex Carvalho, to his counterparts. The prefect of Barbalha (Ceará), Guilherme Saraiva, seeks to clarify dubious techniques about the transformation and what he considers to be the key ingredient of the Sobralense revolution: “Acho que tiveram sucesso por os governos tiveram continuity”. A Brazilian city that prides itself on being the educational capital of Brazil is also home to one of the family classes that, from cities and regions affected by two centers of power, produce presidents, governors, senators and other presidential candidates. In this case, the Gomes, whose leader, Ciro Gomes (PDT), was third in the elections won by Jair Bolsonaro in 2018.